With its origins in the musical rhythms and movements of older Cuban dances, particularly Son, salsa has spread to all parts of the world.
There are now 3 main styles....Cuban, Cross Body and Ballroom.
The sequined ballroom salsa of Strictly Come Dancing has its own rules as to what the judges deem is 'correct'.
At the other extreme is Cuban salsa which retains the original playfulness of the Cuban approach to life and is an improvised dance (no choreographed routines). Cuban style salsa has an earthy, organic feel. It tends to be strongly 'led'. The dancers tend to move in a circular motion on the dance floor with the 'follower' tending to rotate around the 'leader'. The original Cuban salsa was a way for the men (or leads) to show off to each other how well they could lead their women (followers) and so there's very little added 'adornment' for the women to have to perform...i.e. solo 'shines', hair stroking, body rolls etc. because essentially it's the man who takes 'centre-stage'. Cuban style is much more relaxed and understated than the Cross Body and Ballroom styles.....it's fast and playful with the emphasis being on the couple having fun between themselves rather than being a performance for others to watch or judge.
Also under the 'Cuban style' umbrella, is 'La Rueda'...which is the Spanish term for 'The Wheel'. The Rueda is danced in a circle and a 'caller' calls out the name of the next move for the dancers to respond in unison. It's a dance performed by more than one couple and can involve an unlimited number of couples depending on the available floor space. The women (or followers) are danced around the wheel via a range of simple turn pattern moves Many of the moves involve changing partners – hence the wheel turns. The dance becomes a game between the 'caller' and the dancers. How complex and quickly can they call - yet the dancers still keep up? Often one of the dancers makes a mistake, recovers and the game continues. It's great fun and great exercise!
Cross Body style salsa - said to originate in New York - is a much more linear dance form. A characteristic of the Cross Body style is that the couple will dance their turn patterns so they always end up on the same orientation. This means that the dancers begin with an implicit understanding of how they will tend to move on the dance floor (which allows time for more complex leads than in Cuban style salsa). The dance looks crisp, smart and exciting and, with experience, the cross body style salsa dancer will tend to dance turn patterns that are more complex than those found in Cuban salsa. Unlike Cuban style salsa, the emphasis seems to be on the woman taking 'centre-stage'....there are plenty of body rolls, shimmies, hair-stroking and other 'look at me' adornments included in the routines! Cross Body style salsa is the flamboyant child of Cuban salsa.
Salsa is danced primarily to original latin-american music which is fast, fun and uplifting for the soul. Many salsa dancers will end up learning both styles (Cuban and Cross-Body) and enjoy dancing either style but usually have a secret preference towards one style over the other.....but whatever style you learn will be exciting, energetic and probably addictive!